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tv   Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction  CSPAN  March 30, 2016 9:40pm-10:31pm EDT

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rewind. >> they are the soviets are aggressive. they have over stated in afghanistan. they have bitten off more than in my judgment they should be allowed to digest and i think that the best answer to it is for them to know that the united states will keep commitments. >> where people want to be free, soviet or cuban domination where troops are used as cubans, the united states should be willing to provide weapons to any men that want to fight for freedom against those hostile forces. >> the 1980 debate between former california governor ronald reagan and former cia director george h.w. bush. at 6:00 on american artifacts. >> the heart building is also the least of the classic buildings. the building is am mirrored imae
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but the heart building is modern. some people compared it to a large ice cube trey. it's a very different looking building. >> don richy takes us inside the newest of the three senate office buildings, the 1983 heart senate office building to learn about construction and place in congressional history. on the presidency at 8:00. smithsonian david ward chronicles abraham lincoln's life through photographs and portraits. >> a rather exasperated lincoln takes time out to wind at the war to sit for this last photograph in which he does tit. the eyes disappear. the sense in which lincoln is president to the public and suffering. >> for the complete american history tv weekend schedule, go to
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more from the abraham linco lincoln. the crisis of reunion. on the raining night of april 11th, 1965 president lincoln addressed a crowd for the last time. the speech was remarkable less for its qualities, stylely, far from his best than for the fact with the conflict all but behind him, lincoln was looking forward in more ways than one to healing a war torn nation. three days later, the president would fall to the bullet and a promise of a kinder, gentler reconstruction would go unfulfilled. in his current work appropriately titled lincoln's
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last speech wartime reconstruction and the crisis of reunion, dr. lewis major performed skillful surgery on mr. lincoln's final address. he analyzing reconstruction in all its it rations from the earliest days of the war to the end of lincoln's presidency and of his life. frederick douglas in speculating how reconstruction would have evolved had lincoln lived. it's a what if scenario that has been pondered by lay historians for a century in a half but seldom in a skillful, thoughtful informed and reader friendly context. this morning i was remembering when the late professor william lee miller who was never a fan of what ifs, what if the south
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won the war talked about the time during the civil rights era when a student, very sincere young man approached him and said professor miller, what do you think lincoln would have had to say about bussing? and bill miller looked at him and said well, i believe mr. lincoln would have said what's a bus? [ laughter ] none theless, dr. major does it right and certainly has the credentials to support hypothesis. he's the author of eight books the distinguished professor of american studies and history at rutgers and elected member of the society of historians. he's the recipient of fellowships from the melon
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foundation and humanities and earned the trustees award for faculty excellence from trinity, the john clive prize for cleanse in teaching for harvard and outstanding teacher award from the city university of new york. and he's very tall and three years ago i was honored to present the award for his excellent lincoln's 100 days. please welcome a fine scholar and a genuinely nice guy, dr. lewis major. >> my thanks to ron for that wonderful induction and fords theater for hosting this occasion and inviting me to speak with you today.
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we meet this evening not in sorrow but gladness of heart. that would turn out to be his last speech. it had taken him a could feel days to write that line and in many ways, it's a classic lincoln line not in sorrow he had known so much sorrow, personal sorrow in the death of his son. the sorrow he took upon himself with the many deaths over the civil war and he certainly had as many have noted tendencies but what isn't emphasized is that other side of his personality, the gladness of heart and sense of joy and hopefulness, an attitude as he said when he left springfield let us hope that all will yet be well. he always looked ahead in that way. i think often of the letter to fanny that he wrote in december
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of 1862 an astonishing complicated awful time for the nation and for the president and yet, he stops to write the grieving daughter of his friend to be killed you're sure to be happy again. here on april 11th, lincoln delivers that line to open. he only just returned to washington two days earlier. he had been at city point and needed to get away from d.c. his health had always been up and down and failing. he was there at richmond and took his son tad on april 4th through a tour of the fallen city coming back. everyone in a joyous mood. the war nearly over and would receive news once he returned and on that trip he did something he loved to do read shakespeare out loud. no doubt he repeated in scene two that includes the lines
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duncan is in his grave after life's fitful fever he sleeps well. treason has done his worse mall la domestic. malice and treason, the idea of a sound untroubled sleep must a appealed to lincoln. on passing mount vernon, one of the newspaper reporters on the boat remarked that one day springfield would carry special meaning for americans. and the president answered how happy i shall be in four years hence to return there in peace and tranquility. he returns to washington news has spread. he's em plto give a speech but resists. he's not ready to speak. he says everything i say is reported and this speech of all
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will be seen as a victory speech, this speech must be right. the next day crowds again gather at the white house and he's asked to speak and he defers and sees a band and he calls for the band to play a song and i think you know this, right? he says strike up dixie. it's one of my favorite songs now that we won the war we can claim to have recaptured it. was dixie his favorite song? i don't know. in calling for dixie to be played certainly he was signaling something important. a gesture toward the defeated south. the speech goes on for page of page to talk about rek reconstruction and specifically the problem of louisiana and what i want to argue this morning is that reconstruction does not begin in 1865 and in a way we know that. lincoln issued the proclamation of amnesty in december of 1862
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but i want to go back further. in fundamental ways, reconstruction begins when the war begins. indeed, the word reconstruction is indeed the word reconstruction is used at the beginning of the war but it's used differently. it's used not to mean remaking the nation, restoring the nation, reunifying the nation. the states in succession begin to use the word reconstruction to discuss reconstructing the constitution so as to accommodate their concerns and their needs. cindy of ohio dhb an abolitionist carried a cane to protect himself. he declared in february of 1861 we hear much talk about reconstruction, that the succeeding states may come back
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with new constitutional guarantee to slavery. let no one can sooef himself with such a fallacy. to go to hell is easy, but to come back again that is labor, that is toil. well within once the war begins, from the very start, lincoln is concerned with the question of how is the union going to be restored. how are the states going to be brought back in again. and he signals that from the stas start by apinting military governor to five states. he appoints andrew johnson in tennessee, in north carolina he appoint sherman, john phelps in arkansas, andrew jackson hamilton in texas, and most important george sheply in louisiana. louisiana and new orleans is key
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for lincoln from the very start. obviously there's going to be very little traction in texas. in fact andrew jackson hamilton barely hang out in texas. he spends most of his time giving lectures in boston. in north carolina there's very little traction. glue in tennessee, arkansas and the deep south state louisiana, lincoln pins hits hopes. he pins his hopes that those states during the war can be restored. this is critical in understanding lincoln and reconstruction. for lincoln, reconstruction is both a means toward an end as well as an end in itself. the eventual hope, of course, is to win the war and reunify the nation. well how are we going odo that. one of the ways to do that, he believed, was to pick off whatever confederate states he could, have them adopt new state constitutions and readmit representative to congress.
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in doing so he believes you would be weakening the power of the confederacy and advancing the war effort. and it is along those lines that lincoln focuses. he focuses on having elections held in those states, particularly in louisiana, tennessee and arkansas. he writes at one point that an election would be worth more to us than a battle gained. worth more to us than a battle gained. he writes to andrew johnson, he says, get emancipation into your state constitution and there's in such word as fail in your case. and so this becomes critical, particularly after january 1st, 1863. emancipation is the one requirement that the states have to abide by. they have to write new state constitutions that provide for emancipation. and then they can begin the process as outlined under his
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proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction issued in december of '63 to rejoin the union. and it was a fairly mild almost benevolent process, 10% of those who voted in the election of 1860 need to hold the convention to elect delegates. if this franchised certain confederate leaders, it required the confederation of the new contusions, other than those basically left those to proceed. lincoln, throughout his presidency, is pushing and pressing for this to be accomplished, especially in louisiana, which begins to make progre progress. now there are all kinds of problems that lincoln has to face. military governors were sort of unheard of. what is the proper relationship between the military governor and the military commander. what happens when civil and military authority come into conflict with one another. all of these questions are profound questions that hadn't been worked through and would
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continue to be worked through once the reconstruction of which we're familiar comes into play. there's another huge issues rattling around that lincoln has little patience for. that is what is the status of the states in the union. there are endless amounts of conversation about this. loing kon from his part was clear from the start. succession was absurd. succession didn't exist. it was the essence of anarchy. there can be no constitutional right to succession. if there's no constitutional right to succession, you can say you succeeded but guess what, you haven't. therefore you're still entitled to your rights as citizens of the united states. that's going to create all kinds of complexities and mental gymnastics throughout the war but lincoln holds fast to that. it was a rebellion. remember that. it was a war of the rebellion.
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and he believed it was a small group of traitors that were responsible for it, put down the rebellion and figure out a way to get those states back in as quickly as possible. but others had almost tall mudic discussions of the nature of the status of the confederacy. some conservatives, such as montgomery blair, post master general gives a speech in rockville on october 3 wrd, 1863 -- again with all of this is taking off in 1863, months before the proclamation of reconstruction. blair gives a speech in which he says that lincoln's ideas of reconstruction are part of an abolitionist program to further abolish slavery. he calls for opposition to it. he calls for opposition to abolition generally. and basically begins to
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articulate what some northern democrats and certainly others see as any kind of idea of the terms under which the union would be restored. sumner goes crazy. because he's the post master general, some think he's lincoln's spokesman. lincoln try to ignore this although it's not accidental that a year later montgomery blair is replaced in the cabinet. on the other side of blair is sumner, who is arguing that the states committed suicide. that was the phrase, state suicide. so when they succeeded for all intents and purposes, they died and therefore we can do whatever we want to do in order to manipulate them, restructure them, reconstruct them to the needs that we have at the time. and stephens had a different parse on it. he talked about territoriality.
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they didn't commit state suicide but they reverted back to a territorial government. these conversations filled the newspapers, editorials and correspondence and lincoln has had enough. in that final speech he calls it a pernicious abstraction. that's his phrase, a pernicious abstraction. it doesn't so much matter from a constitutional standpoint what their relationship is to the union. the key, he says -- he uses this phrase five times in the final speech. the same way in the gettysburg address he uses the word nation. here he uses the phrase proper practical proclamation. i love that phrase. we just have to get them back aligned as if what was needs was a good chiropractor to straighten it out. proper prom mags to the union. and again lincoln will continue
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along those lines throughout the war. there's a battle, of course, with congress. we all know that. congress has their own ideas about who should be responsible for reconstruction and the terms under which those states should be readmitted. even though the way davis bill in fact is not as radical as bill is portrayed as being. people at the time thought it was fairly modst changing 10% to 50% and requiring an ironclad oath instead of the oath that lipping con required. still lincoln decide to pocket the wade davis bill and takes the extraordinary measure of explaining why he's pocket vetoing it which led to a response from waive and davis. in 1864 again you have this public dispute about reconstruction that appears to be a battle over presidential versus congressional authority although in lots of ways it
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wasn't because lincoln always accepted the way, the reality that it was congress who had the power to see the elected representatives. that the president as the executive would go about the business of helping the states to organize the governments but congress would review the credentials of those elected and decide whether or not to seat them. tremendous progress had been made. especially in louisiana which hads adopted a new state constitution that abolished slavery and which elected representative to congress. and in february of '65 congress decides not to seat those representativ representatives. and lincoln is disappointed. he thought that seating those representatives would be critical to the process of restoring the union with that with louisiana back in the rest would happen easily.
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but in other ways he's not that troubled because congress is about to go into recess and they're not coming back until december. and so on april 11th, what does he do, he takes his case directly to the people. and so you read this last speech and he's going on and own about louisiana and he's asking the people in a common sense kind of way, should we abandon the progress that has been made. isn't it better, he says, to take the experiment that they've made and proceed it with rather than to abandon and crush it? and he uses a typical lincolnesque metaphor saying we should preserve it as to the eggs of the foul. better off hatching the egg rather than smashing it. i've traced all of these response to that metaphor. people go on and on about it in some ways making fun of it saying yes, what if it's a rotten egg and maybe some eggs should be smashed. but it's okay.
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lincoln is prepared with congress out of session to do what has to be done from april through december to begin the work of reconstruction. there's a bigger problem and he knows it and the nation knows it. and the problem isn't the emancipation. that's done. that's settled. sure, there are plenty of northern democrats who still, as late as 1846 think that somehow slavery is going to survive this war. it's not. some even think that lincoln is only, you know, partial one way or the other about it. he's not. he's been determined for a long time. so the question isn't emancipation. the question is the transition to freedom. and this is an issue that doesn't get enough attention. because it's the issue that the society is debating. editorial after editorial talks in terms of what is to be done about the slaves. that's the way the question is
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parsed. what is to be done about the slaves. lincoln himself raises this in a letter to nathanial banks in louisiana in august 5th, 1863 he says, i would be glad for her to make a new constitution, referring to louisiana, recognizing the emancipation proclamation and adopting emancipation in the parts of the states with the proclamation does not apply. okay. and while she is at it, he says, i think it would not be objectionable -- i love that. that's classic lincoln, the double negatives. it would not be objectionable for her to adopt some practical system by which is two races could gradually live themselves out of their old relation to each other and both come out better prepared for the new. live themselves out of their old relationship for the other. what does that mean? maybe for a time in his head he
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thought it meant some kind of apprenticeship system but it was clear that wasn't going to be acceptable. some kind of wage labor agreement, the importance of education. but this is the fun mental dilemma facing america and the problem of reconstruction circa 1864, '6 5. it's the transition to freedom. how do we give meaning to freedom? what can we do? lots of people were lost. the radical republicans had an idea. civil political rights equal to white men, other ideas as well, confiscating states. conservatives on the other side thought nothing should be done, nothing but freedom in the phrase that was used by some at the time. lincoln rambles all over the place. at hampton road the peace conference where he met, he told
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a story when this issue comes up over what to do with freedom. here's the story he tells. it reminds me of a man out in illinois who undertook a few years ago to raise a few large herds of hogs. it with as great trouble to feed them. thou get around this was a puzzle to him. he planted an immense field of potatoes and when they were sufficiently grown, he turned them to the field to save the labor of feeding the hoggance digging out the potatoes. a neighbor comes along, this is fine but out here in illinois the frost comes early and the ground freezes a foot deep. then what are you going to do? this is a view of the matter that mr. case had not concerned. . he stammered it may come hard on
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their snouts but i don't think it will be root hog or die. it was a harsh judgment. even alexander stephens later wrote that the tale was on a list of the best hits of their character. but it expresses something about the confusion. what can be done. what are the possibilities. well as with everything lincoln, he evolved over time. he changed his mind. he considered. he contemplated. certainly in february of '65 signing the act for the freeman's bureau was one concrete positive step toward doing something about the transition from slooavery to freedom. an important first step in a government that of course was not used to in any way having a federal authority being
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responsible for helping. but he went further. he went further. in his last speech, towards the very end, he publicly endorsing black suffrage. for those who served and the well-educated. now people knew that privately he had been thinking about black suffrage. he had written a few letters in which he said for you eyes only. washington then for your eyes only meant everyone whispered to everyone else. did you hear that the president secretly endorses black suffrage? but now he publicly comes out and states his support. well as many of you know, john wilkes booth is in the crowd listening to that last speech and he turned to louis powell and says that's the last speech he will ever give.
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and three days later he acted on his threat. lincoln's endorsement of black suffrage was one of those steps that seemed to be gaining momentum, something that would help in the transition to freedom. but let us not romanticize how everyone felt after lincoln's assassination. some republicans in congress secretly confessed, as one wrote in his journal, that lincoln's death is a god send. this is a republican. lincoln's death is a god send? why would he say this? and he said it because the radical republicans thought lincoln was soft. they thought he didn't have the steel that it would take to deal with the rebels. and indeed time and again, lincoln signalled this most dramatically and poet cli of
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course in the conclusion to the second inaugural two months earlier. time and again he said, let the war be remembered for lessons to be learned, not acts to be revenged. when he was in richmond with his son, the general comes up to him saying, what should do with all of these confederate prisoners and lincoln is alleged to have said, let them up easy. let them up easy. lincoln wanted a just peace, he wanted a righteous peace, a word he used time and again. but he also wanted to show mercy. in that second inaugural which is filled with references to the bible, lincoln said, judge not that we not be judged, quoting the bible. judge not that we be judged. and we know that on his trip he said it over and over again.
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sumner writes the chase, i'm sick and tired of hearing this. what does that mean, judge not that we not be judged. didn't they start the war? hasn't this war been a tragedy? wasn't this war about slavery? we should judge them and we should bring the hammer down on them. but that wasn't going to be lincoln's way. that much we can say. and of course we can never fully know what would have happened had he lived. but of course it's tempting to speculate. it's tempting to speculate how this man would have managed this situation. and in some ways, of course, we know the elements that would have turned out superior to anything that ended up happening with andrew johnson. again we have to remember that andrew johnson, at the beginning, was celebrated, was favored. the radicals thought they had an andrew johnson between april and
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december, someone they could work with. sumner perhaps got a different view of the matter when he goes to meet with johnson and then writes a letter in which he says that andrew johnson used his hat as a spit toon. johnson is going to change and of course we're going to have the warfare that will erupt between the radical republicans -- between all of the republicans and johnson and the demeanors. lincoln was far too great of a politici politician. a masterful politician. he didn't lose that mastery as the war went on. he was able to play the middle, to keep the moderates in line, to address the anxietities and concerns of the conserve tiff side of the party while not completely alienating the radicals. and we have to believe that his ability to do that would have continued apace. there are other ways as well? which had lincoln survived
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perhaps things would have changed. ron in his gracious introduction alluded to frederic douglas who spoke at length after lincoln's assassination about the speech. douse las said the president already expressed himself in favor of extending the rights of suffrage to two class, the brave colored soldiers and second to the colored population south. this declaration on his part, though it seemed to mean but little meant a great deal. it was like abraham lincoln, he never shocked prejudices unnecessarily. he always used the thin edge of the wedge first. and the fact that he used this at all meant that he would, if need be, use the thick as well as the thin. but douglas casts his conclusion
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about what the death of lincoln meant for reconstruction. he said, had abraham lincoln been spared to see this day, the negro of the south would have a hope of franchisement and no rebels would hold the reigns of government in any of the states. now one can only lament for what might have been. whatever else have cause to mourn the loss of abraham lincoln to the colored people of the country, his death is an unspeakable calamity. an unspeakable calamity. but i think we have to take care to believe that all of the problems would have been solved. to be sure, as i've alluded, certain things may have turned out differently had he lived. in all likelihood, he would have revisited his amnesty proclamation and revised it once all of the confederate states
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has surrendered. all that can be said with certainty concerns character, not policy. and lincoln's character did not allow politics to become personal. during the war his disagreements with the radicals never turned malicious. he was not given to personal resentments. neither was his dock tra nair. he recognized that there were plans other than his worth considering and he said so repeatedly, including at the end of his proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction. time and again he changed his mind and altered his position. there's ever reason to believe that after the war he would have moved the nation toward a political reconstruction that did not forsake southern loyalists and a social reconstruction that may not have provided the freed men with all of the radicals had envisioned
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but would have afforded more by way of government, protection then certainly southern blacks ended up receiving. it was a fraught moment. and on the morning of april 14th, lincoln's cabinet met to discuss reconstruction. general grant was there, frederic steward was there in place of his ailing father. they talked about creating military districts. they discussed very specific problems, the problem of the restored state of virginia and there were things that happened earlier that again confused people about lincoln's policies on reconstruction, believing at one point he suggested that the confederate legislature meet to officially dissolve itself which created all kinds of chaos. he later claimed that's not what he meant. but this kind of confusion is important too for understanding the moment. for understanding the complexities of navigating the
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nation through something that no one knew how to do after four years of war. they talked about reconstruction, they developed a plan. of course he took that carriage ride with mary todd that afternoon, said that he believed that on this day the war had ended and that he was happy, happy in ways that he never had been before. i started with that notion of lincoln's happiness. and i want to end with that as well. because despite dark days, lincoln never surrendered hope that the union would be saved. because what was the union itself but hope incarnate. the last best hope of earth. for democracy, for freedom. with the war over he sought to unify the nation, to rebuild it on principles of justice and
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mercy. he knew there would be significant obstacles, but there had been obstacles to winning the war and those have been overcome. so too with the problem of reconstruction. for all of the sadness he endured, one observer said there is a soft shade of melancholy in his smile and in his eyes. lincoln was at heart an optimist. his final speech sought to define and redefine terms. during the war he offered a plan of reconstruction with the emphasis on "a", a man of reconstruction. as the phrase goes he then put in parenthesis. the phrase was adequate for the rebirth that he designed. not reunion, not restoration, not reconstruction, but the
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rebirth of this nation at the end of the war. he would not allow a return to the status quo. and had he lived, his humanity might have led the nation toward the righteous peace that he envisioned for all americans. thank you. [ applause ] we have plenty of time for questions because i often find we can get at some of the other issues during q&a rather than me lectures about it. i'm happy to take questions. yes, sir. >> principle author of the civil rights act of 1866, the precursor of the 14th amendment. do you think lincoln would have made a similar trajectory? >> yes, i believe so. i believe we still get civil
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rights act, i believe we still get 14th and 15th amendments. again, i think it's in this softer area where support for the transition to freedom would have made a big difference. you know, ub like johnson who vetoed the free man's bill, a sort of free man bill that would have continued to do its work. monies provided for the kinds of things need frd the transition to freedom, whether it's tools or seed or negotiating wage labor agreements with former masters. certainly education. you know, education remains, i believe, one of the -- it's hard to talk about reconstruction as having anything near to triumph. but education is one of them that investment in education within the black community and among many northern whites and others that went south to teach black school children.
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the literacy rates explode over the course of the 19th century. creations of historic black colleges and institutions. but we would be naive to think that the clue clux clan could have been -- or there would have been a significant military presence in the south to control things. are other possibilities. disenfran size some of the former con fed rates to prevent them from regaining political power as quickly as they did. i was aon theished in researching this book, alexander stephens is reelected by georgia in december of 1865 to congress. think about this. the vice president confederacy is reelected. congress refuse to seat any of the representatives under
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johnson's reconstruction plan which was similar to lincoln. and you mentioned trum bold. but i do believe the embrace of civil rights, as indicated in the last speech, would continue. >> was black suffrage addressed in any of the reconstructed state constitutions? >> in louisiana it husband left to the legislature to decide, which meant no black suffrage. i don't know for a fact if any of the state legislatures were able to do that. i don't believe so, which is one of the reasons for the necessity from the republican point of view of the 15th amendment. the abolitionists have been pressing for suffrage from early on in the war and the lincoln had been opposed to it. another reason for it, obviously, is the political party for which black men is going to vote.
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so there's both justice as well as expediency involved in pressing for the 15th amendment. but talk about southern states, i mean, northern states then allow free black men to vote. in the election of 1864 it's connecticut that has a referendum to give the vote to free blek men. lincoln wins in connecticut, that referendum fails. again we have to keep that in mind when we're talking about the contested problem of race. >> yes, over here. >> question here. is this the last question? >> you have ten minutes >> i have ten minutes. beautiful. >> thank you. amazing concept that he is looking at people as people looking at the construct of relationships, rebuilding relationships between black and white. and that is based on the sense that black people are people. >> yes. >> so the idea and the context at that time when there was so much hatred and putrid
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consideration, where did this come from where he is saying not only -- the old does not work anymore and we're going toward a new sense of beings, with ourselves and with each other. >> frederic douglas met with lincoln on several occasions. and douglas said about him he was the only white men he ever met that treated him fully as an equal. i think part of it comes back to the idea of the self-made man. lincoln's idea that we have to lift artificial weights off of people's shoulders. the is the great arctic later among others of the vision. earlier on he doesn't know what to do. again this is the change over time. read the speech in 1854 where he says if all power were given to me, i wouldn't know what to do with respect to slavery. my first inclination would be be
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colon nigh zags. he made comments about not believing in social equality. but ultimately it also becomes about the ways in which experience transforms attitudes. so lincoln grew but so did so many other americans. in my last book i wrote about a lot of soldiers. and one of the important elements of the emancipation proclamation can is when the army becomes an army of liberation, it changes their mind. the enslaved are an abstraction for the vast majority of northerners. so what does it mean when you're marching south and you're able to humanize african americans. the soldiers that medford talked about, very important, 179,000 men serving. so in all of these ways it's not just lincoln. it's parts of a society that's trying to move ahead to solve what for them is -- let's pose it has a problem. the problem of freedom in the age of slavery. that's a complicated problem.
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and on one hand vast strides are made. on the other hand 150 years later it's a problem that the nation continues to have to address. i think for lincoln it's that basic sense of allowing individuals to rise or fall on their own merits and to give everyone that opportunity to do so. >> you talked about the readmission of southern states. several years ago a good friend of mine, a civil war buff told me that he had seen a map of the southern states in which the boundaries, the state borders were redrawn and new states were created. now i've never seen that, never found anybody that said they saw this. have you ever heard of it? zbli could defer to real experts in the audience about this. this all sounds like new to the variety of -- it's possible. there are lots of things being thrown out. but, you know, aside from the
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hypothetical, you know, there were certain realities. one of the things -- again, i come back to the problem of reconstruction. ultimately what was the price that the confederacy paid for leaving the union. slavery was the price. could there, should have been additional prices that they would have paid? that's the place where the debate has to be engaged. there's an argument about confiscation of property. but confiscation of property is unconstitutional. so the idea of confiscating property for one generation that's fine. but you can't confiscate in purpose duty. there are lots of stumbling blocks of thinks how the south could have been reintegrated into this nation and to further protect the rights and liberties
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of the free men. >> that's kind of a segue into my question. at the end of the war and starting with reconstruction, people saying, you know, we lost, let's make the best of it, let's work something out with the freed men and let's work something out for our futures. >> an excellent question. of course there were. i mean there were -- lincoln may have exaggerated the number of southern yuanists at the start of the war but there were your yuanists. there were those old southern wigs still there and there were those who were not committed to the planter class. even some of them got on to the program quickly. they understood this is a new day dawns and we have to arrange for the knew kinds of relationships. many of the freed men, some of them wanted to leave the plantation. many of them, as may wrote at
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the time, didn't know they were free unless they had the freedom to leave. many set out on missions searching for loved ones that had been separated. but many others stayed on as if nothing had happened. there are some voices. the problem is right, the northern republicans would come south get characterized as carpetbaggers, the blacks were elected to state legislatures. that's not to say there weren't issues. in lots of ways we still have not excavated ourselves out of the myths of the lost cause and the arguments about reconstruction that were articulated in birth of the nation and other kinds of his tore yog fi. it took until the 1960s to revisit the reconstruction and say that the myth of corrupt northerners and of black citizens, that, you know, the
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c kkk was there to protect rights, that was so ingrained for so long. now to go back and revisit reconstruction, there's been a lot of great work done on this. looking at exactly what people in mississippi and others were able to do or try to do, the problem is that it's a luminous but brief moment that then gets undermined and defeated, for lots of reasons. think about it. the war has raged from 1861 to 1865. reconstruction is going on longer than the war. right? by 1869, '70, '71, '72, people are tired, they're exhausted. there's post-war depression. you need a moral and political will to solve the problem of the transition to freedom. and that will dissipates for all kinds of reasons.
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and reconstruction turns out, of course, the way it does. of course all of us would have loved to have had lincoln's hand at the tiller for those last three years and to see what might have happened. and again, i think in many ways, we get changes that would have meant a lot in the specific lives of individual freed men. but in other ways there were larger structural problems of racism and the transition from slavery to freedom that i'm not sure could have been solved then. but i sure hope in the near future they will be solved. thank you all very much. [ applause ]


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